Diary of a Marked W•man


For latest update as of September 1st, please scroll down to this sign:

I have found a new system to read on the computer monitor for extended time without eye-strain: all one has to do is to "select all" with CTRL+A and all the text appears in white letters on a dark blue background. So there is no need anymore to fiddle with the background colors. Also, for cheap computers like mine, with a lo-res graphic card that admits only 16 colors, many background colors appear very grainy and the text on them illegible, and the "select all" trick solves that problem too!

Sat. the 10th: Just because I wanted to walk in the shade on this hot day, around 6PM, I walked a route different to the usual and arrived at Monoprix from the north instead of the south. And while I was on my way I thought about this woman who is always there, at the north corner, selling a magazine called "l'Itinerant", a polite word for "homeless", and I reflected that she would certainly be available to do a little cleaning at my apartment and might like to make some extra money, so when I saw her I talked to her. She agreed on principle but when I asked her to come on Monday she said no, Monday was a holiday, she said (as if homeless people had to respect holidays like working people) so she would come on Tuesday. Since neither I nor she had a writing instrument, I asked her to wait until I came out of the store. She was right there inside the supermarket when I was at the checkout, and I used a borrowed pen to give her my address and phone number. I asked her name, and reluctantly she said her name was Irina, but when I asked for her phone number she refused to give it to me.

In the evening, after I had relaxed and rested my sore leg, and checked my calendar, I realized that Monday was NOT a holiday, and that Tuesday was the 13th of June. Why did the woman want to come on Tuesday rather than a day earlier, after I had promised I would pay her 12 euros per hour for a two-hour work session, unless she absolutely wanted to come on the 13th?

And during the entire week-end and Monday, the more I thought about having her inside my apartment, the less I liked it. She was from Eastern Europe, obviously, or maybe Russia. What if she belonged in a gang? She looked lonely all the time, but maybe she had a network, maybe she was just a bait, and once she had pulled the heart-string of a goody-two-shoes like me and was inside the place, she would carry out the long-held plan... Maybe she was targeting me specifically, just like the young woman and her toddler daughter who had been begging nearby in 2002-2003 and to whom I gave a lot of money, about 1 euro every single time I passed them on my way to or from the store, and for whom I had bought winter clothes... only to see them both become demanding, arrogant and invasive after I had done all I could for them! And since they were from Bosnia and hardly spoke any French, how come the young mother managed, after I had given her and her daughter each a long-sleeve cotton under-shirt by Esprit (TM) and thick panty-hose to wear under their long skirts, how did she manage to say something, just two or three words, that hurt my feelings very deeply? Only someone who knew me well and wanted to hurt me could have thought about this, and who else could it be but my mother, hiding as usual, like the witch she is, behind someone else's appearance? I was sure that this young woman and her daughter had been placed there by my mother and her gang to take from me without being obvious about it, as much of the money she gave me as possible. Wasn't this episode a learning experience? So why wouldn't this woman Irina be also an agent of my mother?

So on Tuesday at 2PM when I heard her knock on the door I just didn't move, and I let her knock and knock. She insisted, came back about thirty minutes later and tried again and again and again but I never made a noise and finally she gave up.

When I saw her next, on the 16th (see below) I walked up to her and apologized, said that there had been an unexpected problem but I had no telephone number to reach her and cancel, and I gave her 10 euros for her trouble. She asked if she could come another day and I said no, without any explanation.

Thur. the 15th: e-mail to Sophie I start by asking news about her new grand child and about the settlement of the estate, then segue into my present problems, and though I didn't know I would mention it when I started writing, I tell her that I am scared to death that the dentist I"ll go to will betray me and allow an assassin to attack me while I'm reclining in the chair. The text is in French of course but there's a link to a translation engine. Despite the urgency of my message my sister answers only on the 22nd, and only to reproach me my "betrayal". So I write her again, urging her to please talk to mom and persuade her to give me some money, and all she does is to fax mom the text of my message!

Fri. the 16th: Went shopping to Monoprix again this week for last week I didn't find any potatoes to my liking and I was out of them. So I stocked up on fruits and vegs again. Now the potatoes sold in bulk are still unappealing: very expensive at 1.7 euro per kilo, and smallish and oddly shaped, so I go to the front desk and speak to one of the ladies and I ask for a seat. One brings me a stool and promptly the veggie man comes. He says that now the potatoes are sold in prepackaged bags and has no explanation for why those sold in bulk are so unappealing. The bagged ones are some distance away I had never thought to check, so he shows me and I find the two kinds I like: one for puree and and for sauteing, the red-skinned Chérie. I see that all the bananason display are sick with the rotting disease, even the unripe ones have soft spots, and since the man is still around I ask him if he's heard about this banana disease that is wiping out the entire species. He says he hasn't. I haven't read much about it but it is a fact that the worldwide banana culture is on the verge of extinction because of this disease, and when one considers the enormous place the fruit has not only as a sweet item but also as a vegetable with the plantain -platano- the prospect of food shortage looming over humanity is one giant step closer all of a sudden.

I'm not buying any dairy or meat product so the shopping expedition is rather quick. I see at the clothing section that these very simple thin-strapped cotton jersey 15-euro dresses are still available and since I have already bought two which I find very comfortable to live and also sleep in, I buy myself a third one in olive drab color, and on to the checkout.

It's a young woman I have never seen ringing up my stuff, or rather, scanning it. Near the end of the process a tall stocky light-skinned Afro-man puts a carton of juice cocktail on the belt before the cashier is finished with me and she rings up his juice with my stuff, then is told of her mistake, so she calls the supervisor to remove the item from my bill and the lady comes fast and cancels the item just by putting a card with a barcode in front of the laser ray. Then I see that my dress, which I had put smack in front of her to keep it away from the food items, is still there, so I ask her if she has rung it up already and removed the anti-theft tag. She hasn't, so she adds it up at the end of my total,

The big guy, I understand, is one of the delivery people. Funny because usually, the delivery men never show up in the store, and guess who knocks on my door half an hour later? Mr football himself. I think I don't recognize him from previous deliveries. There's another man about his size and color but it isn't him. This one is much bigger.

He asks me where I want him to put the bags, so I show him the box I had prepared before leaving. It's the cardboard box where I keep my fruits and vegetables, it's on the floor right in front of the front door in the kitchen, easy for the delivery man to reach, and I know that before leaving I had put the last three rotting bananas in the garbage and taken the garbage out. He shows some hesitation so I come closer and I see that there is a clear plastic bag with bananas in it, and another one with zucchinis, and I am quite sure that I had put the zucchinis on the table before leaving, precisely because I wanted the box to be completely empty. So I pick up the two bags to make room -one more time- for my new purchases.

I ask him if he has a two-euros coin because I only have a fiver, and he says he has it and gives it to me, so I give him the 5 euro bill, and he says thank you, and he adds fervently that he hopes I'll have a good, restful evening, and because of the insistent way he says it I immediately know that he's making reference to the e-mail I sent Sophie the day before, where I said that after each trip to the store I am in pain all evening and need to take a lot of painkillers.

Later when I try to connect to the internet there's a message indicating that my password is wrong although it's an automatic process and my username and password are in memory. Since the password appears all in asterisks I have no way of knowing what is wrong with it so I erase it and re-enter it and this time the connection happens..

And later, much later, around four in the morning, I eat two crepes with strawberry jam before going to sleep because I know that I fall asleep easier on a full stomach, but soon enough I feel my digestion is disturbed, I have really bad pains in my guts, so I turn this way and that way, turn on the light, wonder if I need to puke, but no, I don't. Do I need to go to the bathroom? Neither. So I wait, and the pain gets worse and I wonder if I should call the Poison center. Is it this bad? Or can I take it?.

So I turn the light off again and wait for the crisis to pass, and some time later, maybe one hour or two, after more gut-wrenching pain, I feel I have a diarrhea-eruption coming up so I get up and, hobbling on my crutches rush to the bathroom, lean the crutches against the wall and lower myself on the toilet seat just in time for the big stinky SPLAAAASH.

Conclusion: while I was out shopping, someone came into my apartment, messed with my kitchen arrangement, changed the password on my internet connection and poisoned my strawberry jam. And the mixing of the deliveryman's "juice" with my own items at the checkout appears to me like a deliberate lack of respect at best, a symbolic rape, and a threat

Tues. the 20th: Visit of Dr. Courson to renew painkilling medicine. I told her the prescription she gave me last time was very good because she prescribed 9 tabs/day for two months so the prescription lasted me almost six months, and I asked her to do the same again. Instead she gave me prescription for 6 tabs/day for six months, saying it is less than what she prescribed previously and she has to limit the quantity prescribed at one time. She also asked me if I was under such and such insurance regime and I said I don't know, so she asked me what paper format she used for her last prescr.: was it a large sheet of paper of a half-size sheet like the one she had in front of her. I said it was the small one. The chair she was sitting on was not exactly up against the table so in order to write she leaned forward awkwardly instead of bringing it closer under herself. I asked her why she didn't bring it closer so she did, but not enough and she wrote the prescr. leaning forward to the extreme, looking very odd because she is a very tiny woman of Asian blood.

She offered to take my blood pressure so I said no thanks. She asked if there was anything else she could do for me, so I grimaced and said I had dental and eye problems but I felt discouraged to talk about them, so I pulled the envelope I had prepared for her and gave it to her, asking her to open it when she had a quiet moment. It contained a copy of the desperate e-mail I sent my sister Sophie on the 15th, a letter asking her to send it to the "authorities" by certified mail, Return Receipt, reminding her that not doing so was a violation of Art. 434-1 of the Penal Code, an excerpt of that article and a 5 euro bill to cover the postage costs.

Just to make some pleasant small talk I said that the weather was much better than last time she came in late January, and wasn't the fragrance of the linden trees wafting into the room just wonderful? Yes, the trees were in bloom, their foliage just in front of my open window.

In the evening I took out my calculator and did the math about the old and the new prescriptions:
-old one: 9 caps/day x 60= 540 caps
-new one: 6 caps x (30 x 6) = 1080 caps
Why are even professionals doing all these stupid things? I don't care, I let them make a fool of themselves without losing my cool, observing the scene with curiosity like I'm at the zoo, just wondering what's going on in their minds.

Wed. the 21st:Went out to the post office to get my new Mastercard, because the card I had before, Visa Electron, was not accepted by all businesses, being the poor-man's debit card. I also got several books I had ordered on Amazon, and they came from four different merchants, some in the USA so I had waited until I got all five slips before going to the p. o. Next I crossed the avenue to fill my prescription. There was an old man talking with an employee when I entered, and right away he suggested I sit down, but since I am stronger on my legs now I don't tire as easily as before and can stand for a while without feeling too bad, so I declined, and he continued an intense conversation. A while later the Owneress showed up and she prepared one month worth of medicine, but after typing some on her computer keyboard she started talking with another old man who had entered and was talking with the employee, and meanwhile she held my medicine boxes in her hands without doing anything, keeping me waiting.

You see how wonderfully heart-warming, compassionate, elegant and delicate it is for a pharmacist who has a handful of painkilling medicine boxes in her hands and her customer on crutches standing in front of her, to take her sweet time talking to another customer who is already being helped! So sweet, Madame Valmary of 61 avenue de Choisy, really, I'll recommend your shop to anyone who has sore feet, varicose veins, advanced pregnancy, or even leg amputation, for you are the Queen of Mean. But as I said, it didn't bother me to stand on my feet for a while so I could observe at my leisure the staged scene where the message, obviously, was that an obnoxious old fart is a person worthy of more attention than a middle-aged woman with a leg injury.

And then I had to pay 35 percent of the bill out of pocket for I hadn't renewed my Mutual insurance coverage which lapsed at the end of April, because I have to go to the "SÚcu" office.

Next I went to make copies for designing purposes, and send a fax to Canetta publishing in Milano, which has some interesting embroidery magazines, to order some with my new Mastercard, which I got for that express purpose. I showed the woman attendant some of the books on beadwork I just got and after she had done the copies and sent the fax she said that she was doing exactly the same stuff as what I had showed her on the books, i.e. lapmshades, all the while smiling slyly and spying my face for any expression of emotion. Another nutcase.

I think two people came in while I was being served, but since I had to be very careful copying my new card numbers on the fax and providing all the info required lest my order be denied and I had to send another fax, and getting some of my my copies enlarged and some other mulltiples, I had to concentrate and couldn't be rushed so I let the two people pass ahead of me without losing my concentration, just saying "Go ahead! I'm in no rush," and everything turned out alright as I found out later when I opened myin-box and saw Canetta had accepted my order.

Next I went to the supermarket just across the street. A stockman was barring the aisle with a shopping cart so instead of roughing it to reach the dairy section at the end of the aisle I just asked him to go and fetch the "bio" yoghurt for me, which he did, and it saved me some walking, so I only had to go to the house-cleaning and skin care aisles which are both close by the check-out, and didn't have to walk a lot at all.


This is a great book about the history and sociology and ecology of greed, each chapter in separate pdf file: GREED AND GOOD

Sat. the 24th: Go to Massena 13 mall next door to buy fruits and vegs but first I check the dentist's plaques at the entrance. There are 2, then I go upstairs to the medical center to check if they practice there or somewhere else. A cleaning lady says the dentists'offices are here within the medical center but the center is closed on Sat. afternoon but will be open Monday.

After shopping I approach a market type of tent on the plaza. On the way in, I noticed from a distance that it had pictures and maps hanging, so I want to take a closer look. While I'm approaching with my crutches and my backpack heavy with veggies, two boys are playing ball against the wall of a service type of construction, maybe an airshaft for the underground parking lot. Surprisingly they play without much entrain, they don't seem to be having fun. The one with the ball throws it against the wall hesitantly, so it bounces back really softly and low. As I'm approaching the other boy says to the one with the ball "Watch out for the lady!" or something to the effect that he really respects me. Anyway I think it's prohibited to play ball in this area. There are playgrounds nearby, but this is not a place where kids are allowed to throw balls against walls.

The tent has a flap open horizontally, forming a roof, under which is a table with a few people sitting around it. Next to this spot, in the open, are a few more people who aren't doing anything, a stand for brochures that is out of reach of the passer-by, another table with a few more people sitting at it, and a long narrow table delimiting the outside perimeter, with a string on which postcard size color pictures are hanging.

A man in his thirties with dark curly hair tells me they're doing a game so I'm not interested and walk a few steps towards the photos and maps of the high-rise district. The man follows me on the other side of the narrow table, and from then on everything he says, he is saying while bending forward so his face won't be hidden by the photos, but raising his face toward me, which is a very uncomfortable position. I ask if I could get a map. He says he can't let me have one, they are for the game. He says I could get a similar map at the mayor's office, that's where he got his, and then he modified it. I say I'm sure people would be willing to pay for a map of this area and he could earn money this way. He doesn't like the idea. Says that they are an "association" dealing with architectural issues -apparently a non-profit because non-profits are called "associations" under the law of 1901, so all non-profits are under the umbrella of "association Loi 1901".... unless they are an "association de malfaiteurs" as the Penal Code terms a criminal conspiracy!

He doesn't say what the asso. is called nor what its mission is. So while I'm looking at some pics of the neighborhood that have some sentences written on them in "courier" and "stencil" fonts (fonts I checked recently on the internet) and ask the guy if I could buy a few he says "No! no! These cost us a lot of money but they're not for sale! They're for the game!" One photo if of the entrance to the underground parking lot -a black hole- There are others innocuous looking: a man in a suit sitting outdoors and talking on his cell-phone has the caption "Outdoors ofice" and one with the text "The corpse of a Chinese man is found on the old railway".

Incredible that the two kinds of items I was interested in are not for sale. You'd think a non-profit, strapped for cash as they usually are, would do anything to make the money flow in at least to recoup their expenses. Strange how nervous he was every time I wanted to buy something: "No, no!" he said each time.

Then the guy starts explaining to me that the game is about making up a story that takes place in the neighborhood, and people use their own living experience to feed the story line, and there's a member of the association for every three players to manage the group, and they mark the itineraries on the maps. I look at the people. One man with a "theater".... something printed in the back of his shirt is sitting at one of the tables with a woman, and at another table is another group, but no one seems to have fun. I find them, on the contrary, rather tense and stiff and uncommunicative. What kind of game is this where no one has fun? And if it's not fun to play, why do they stay?

I start reading a text displayed on one side of the tent; it has been printed out on A3 format sheets in a type big enough to be read from a one meter distance. Apparently the beginning of a story that one group came up with, about a handicapped man who has lost his two wheelchair wheels. (which? The big ones or the small ones? Who would steal the wheels of a wheelchair instead of the whole thing?) So it seems the whodunit is on its way, and in the course of the investigation one learns about the squabbles people have about their "caves, their underground storage lockers. Some people from "tower A" use the caves that belong to people of "towers B". A little later one learns that the handicapped man has found his missing wheel. It started with two missing wheels and now it says that only one was missing. Blah blah... who cares? It's boring. What if I wanted to participate in this game and told my own story? Now, THAT would be interesting! I ask the man, who started to explain the game to me without my asking, if they come here often, and he says that they'll be here again on July 14th.

I stop reading and move to the place where the map is hanging and look at it for a while then go home. I wonder what other stories the people have come up with. But what kind of people could be interested in this game? The ones I saw were all Caucasian, whereas all the high-rise "towers" are inhabited by Asians. Oh, I don't know...

While I'm climbing the stairs with my heavy backpack I hear a cheery "Hello Brigitte!" I wonder who could be calling me by my first name. I'm not on a first name basis with anybody so I'm puzzled until I recognize my next door neighbor. "Can we help you with anything?" he asks. I don't see what he could do for me now that I'm almost home. "Have an elevator installed" I say. He's with his girlfriend with the long frizzy hair.

Mon. the 26th: Dentist Didier Marfaing -79 rue Tolbiac- gives me same day appointment. I walk to his office which is not too far. As I open the elevator door a middle aged man enters the area in a hurry, says hello and starts climbing the stairs two at a time. When I enter the waiting room I see he's there, sitting and immediately a tall, unshaved, green-coated man enters and calls him, I ask the green-coat if he's Dr Marfaing. He says he is. Then they both walk away and two or three minutes later the Dr. calls me in. He asks me first to his office where he fills out a form detailing my history and the routine questions about chronic diseases and allergies.

Then he invites me to his dental office. I tell him my bridge needs re-sealing. He removes it, looks at the situation under the bridge and says "c'est poubelle" "(it's garbage") in a tone that admits no discussion. Puts temporary cement all the while being brusque in gestures and in words "No, not like this! More to the left!" and when he's done he tells me to rinse my mouth but doesn't put the seat upright so I'm still lying down waiting for him to push the magic button when he tells me again to rinse my mouth, so this time I use my abdominal muscles to get into a sitting position.

He asks me again to his office and writes the medical insurance sheet and tells me he'"s giving me a scription for medicines and also for a panoramic X-rat and that I owe him twenty euros. I write him a check and when I'm done I see the green insurance form and the small white prescription sheet, which I put in my bag.

I want to discuss the future, since he wants me to have the four roots extracted. "So it's either implants or a removable denture," I say. "What about implants? Could you give me some information? How much do they cost? How many would I need?" He looks at me with his lips pressed against each other like he's determined notto let a word out. He gives me a mean look. I smile and wait. "I'm not an implantologist. You'll have to ask one," he says. "I thought you could at least give me some information." I wait for a beat but he's not forthcoming with any solution to replace the teeth he wants to extract. "You see," I say, changing tack, "the state of my teeth is due to physical abuse when I was a toddler, not to neglect, ignorance or stupidity..." "I wasn't asking you about that!" he cuts in abruptly, as if he can't take it anymore and is about to hit me upside the head. "I know, but I thought you might wonder, because I'm sure you don't see dentitions like this very often." What's the matter with this guy? First he doesn't have the elementary courtesy to shave for his clients, then he makes me sit down to fill out a form asking for my general health, chronic conditions, allergies etc. as if this was the beginning of a relationship, but when I talk to him and ask questions he acts like it's all he can do not to hit me. And once home I see that there is no prescription for the panoramic X-ray.

Tues. the 27th:Call dentist early to make appt for next week to have bridge sealed with solid cement. Call mom. Agnes answers with very soft voice I don't recognize at first. She says Mom has colon cancer an intestinal occlusion (x2) and has been to the Pasteur clinic and the La Musse hospital. She is taking chemotherapy by oral not intravenous, drugs, no radiation therapy, and cannot speak to me and just when I'm about to hang up I recognize her. "Is it you Agnès?" We hadn't spoken since she came to New York in June 1989 and terrorized me.

I call the Pasteur clinic that says mom hasn't been hospitalized there, then I call La Musse. The Dr Canonville will be available at 2 PM so I call again then. Apparently mom's condition isn't terminal. Call again Pasteur clinic where woman assistant mentions the name of a surgeon and a gastro-enterologist who take care of mom.


Call Agnès a second time and explain to her that I need some money to fix my apartment, including installing a bath tub and water heater, and the other items I mentioned to Sophie in my e-mail. She says no to everything with no consideration for my disability. On the contrary, she uses it as a pretext to deny me what I need, implying that it would be unfair toward the other brothers and sisters to favor me in this manner since they are not receiving the money that I am asking for. (Oh, excuse me, I thought they had bought real estate with their inheritance!) I am completely disheartened. In writing to Sophie I had tried to avoid this horrible feeling of being denied my needs by mom but Sophie had passed the buck, and now mom was "unavailable", "unable to come to the phone", so Agnès was protecting her from outsiders like me. This was so cowardly of my mother to do this. She doesn't have the courage to speak to me so she asks one of her offspring to do the dirty work for her, and my eldest sister is only too proud to help . I wonder if she doesn't find it strange to "protect" her mother from another daughter. To stave off my insistence she accuses me of betrayal: "You betrayed me..." she says in a voice full of hatred, without saying when or where. "You went to the police...".

Now I knew she was speaking of her 1989 visit to New York, and the time she invited me to dinner in the huge, dark apartment that belonged to this old man Hellerstein on CPW while he was away, and the fact that I was scared to death to go there because I smelled a rat (I was supposed to bring my camera to loan to her husband) and I was torn between my family reflex to go and my survival instinct that told me not to, so I went to the 24th Precinct on 100th street for advice, not to file a complaint, and told the cop at the desk that I was afraid to go to dinner at my sister's, and he told me "Then don't go!".

So I reply to my sister "You mean that when you terrorize me an threaten me, I don't have the right to protect myself?" She ends the conversation.

I ruminate for a while then call Agnès a third time. This time I am angry and ask why she hasn't kept me informed of mom's condition when she learned of it instead of keeping me in the dark. She is impatient, she's just about to go out and drive to town and doesn't have the time to answer me. Incredible! We haven't spoken in sixteen years and after just a few sentences she acts like she's run out of patience with me already. I keep myself in check though I feel like screaming, and she gives me her e-mail address so I write her a short note just to make sure I got her address right, and she answers and I write her a longer message where I ask why does she need to protect mom from me when I am crippled and in dire need of help, but she

This month I have been undoing and re-doing a crochet piece composed of eight-branch stars within octagons, This piece was one of the first I made when I started crochet again back in the Spring of 2003 and it showed the beginner's touch because the stitch was very loose. Since then I have acquired more control of the thread tension in my left hand and as a result my stitch is much tighter. So I had this piece that took me a lot of work but which I didn't think was good enough to display, and since I didn't want to throw it in the garbage I concluded that my only option was to un-do it and re-do it. So I separated each octagon from the rest one at a time and after pulling the thread free I started to undo the existing one while re-doing a new one, and each time I ended up with some extra yarn because indeed, my stitch is tighter now. So now the thing is finished and quite nice looking.


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